ABP retains Israeli bank stakes, saying no breaches of international law

Stance at odds with Dutch peer PGGM

Dutch pension giant ABP, the €300bn civil service sector scheme, has said it will not exit its stakes in three Israeli banks, saying they have not breached international law in a stance that differs from its peer PGGM which excluded five of the banks last month.

PGGM said in January that it was divesting five Israeli banks over their role in financing settlements in the disputed West Bank. The move sparked a diplomatic row amid media reports of a “creeping boycott” of Israel.

In blacklisting Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, PGGM cited a 2004 Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice which said the settlements in the Palestinian territories are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.But ABP says it will retain its stakes in Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot as they “did not act in breach of international laws and regulations”, adding that there were no existing judicial rulings that should result in their being excluded from its investment universe.

ABP has been in talks with the three banks for more than a year, it said in a statement.

“Furthermore, ABP has concluded that the stipulations in the UN Global Compact have not been violated and do not give cause to start a formal engagement process (that possibly could lead to exclusion),” it added.